F. Curtis Barry & Co.

Is There a Wall Between IT and the Rest of the Company? Part 2 of 2
April 22, 2008

In the second part of this two-part series on IT departments and the role they occupy within companies, I’ll provide some tips on how your IT department can peacefully coexist and prosper within your organization. (For part 1, click here.) Tear Down That Wall In order to begin to bridge the gap between IT and the rest of your company, adjust your mind-set a bit. Ask yourself the following questions when evaluating the IT department’s role within your company. * Is there failure to recognize problems with IT? This amounts to costly neglect. Is IT an expensive utility or a necessity? Your

Ops Tip of the Week
April 22, 2008

Editor’s Note: Beginning this week, we’ll bring you an operations and fulfillment tip of the week, courtesy of the consulting firm, F. Curtis Barry & Co. These tips will lead up to our inaugural interactive workshop for multichannel merchants on choosing direct commerce systems. (See below for more details.) — Paul Miller, editor-in-chief While converting from one order management system to another, it’s best not to try to convert the open customer orders and open purchase orders. Instead, rekey these to eliminate the risk of improper conversion. This also gives the staff a little extra “practice” with the system. Catalog Success and F.

Selecting and Implementing the Right System
April 15, 2008

During a session I led at last week’s National Conference on Operations & Fulfillment in Orlando, Fla., I identified several critical mistakes businesses make in their systems selection processes, regardless of the type of system. These include distributed control systems, order management systems (OMS), warehouse management systems (WMS), e-commerce or similar ones. Among the mistakes I noted were the following: * not having the right project team in place; * failing to develop detailed business requirements; and * limiting the search to a preselected number of vendors, based on the premise that “someone that somebody knows” said “this is the system you should get.”

Is There a Wall Between IT and the Rest of the Company? Part 1 of 2
March 25, 2008

In the first part of this two-part series on IT departments and the role they occupy within companies, this month I’ll take a look at the divide that often exists between IT and the rest of a company. I’ll examine some of the root causes for these conflicts. Here’s the picture: A multichannel catalog company with sales of $20 million has an aging order management system that’s been in place for more than 20 years. While there are some things the users like about it, the company has basically outgrown the system. It needs far better marketing information, e-commerce site-to-business systems interfaces,

Scrutinize Your Multichannel Software Contracts
February 19, 2008

It’s amazing how many companies don’t look very closely at software license agreements. These are legal documents, and without close review of payment terms, deliverables, schedules, termination options and other key details, you could be putting your company at risk of losing thousands of dollars. To protect yourself and your company’s interests, don’t rush into signing an agreement just because the vendor is giving you a soon-to-expire discount. Getting to a fair agreement for both parties takes time, negotiation and a careful review of any contract. (A quick disclaimer: The focus of this article is to alert you of some of the items you’ll

Reducing Costs in the Contact Center, Part 2 of 2
January 15, 2008

In part one of this two-part series, which appeared in the Dec. 18 edition (click here to review part 1), I presented a step-by-step guide to conducting a postseason analysis of your contact center as a baseline for process improvement and cost reduction. In this second and final installment, I’ll examine potential opportunities for major cost savings within your contact center. Once you’ve decided on a postseason review, assemble a team from across the organization. This team should comprise representatives from fulfillment, merchandising, HR and the contact center. Include as many areas of the contact center as possible, from the director to managers, supervisors,

Reducing Costs in the Contact Center, Part 1 of 2
December 18, 2007

As 2007 comes to a close, many of our clients are turning their thoughts to how they can save money — both in their contact centers and throughout their operations — as well as starting to prepare for holiday season 2008. One of the best ways to plan for future success is to conduct a postseason analysis. In this first of a two-part series, I’ll explain how to perform a postseason analysis of your center as a baseline for customer service, process improvement and cost reduction. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the postseason analysis. 1. Form a postseason review team. Because your efforts

Balancing Your Budget and Investment: When is the Right Time to Outsource?
November 13, 2007

Many multichannel merchants focus on how they can lower operating costs when they consider outsourcing certain tasks. But when you outsource operations, you also outsource the investment. Sounds obvious, but maybe the magnitude isn’t all that clear until you’re faced with replacing an order-management system, moving into a new fulfillment space or upgrading your Web site. When outsourcing your investment, you don’t have to invest in those upgrades as your business grows and changes. Let’s look at some examples that show the size of these investments. * Order-management systems. Software as a service (SaaS) can free up a potential investment of $25,000 for an

Warehouse Cost Reduction: How to Yield Immediate Results
October 9, 2007

A common thread to all warehouse operations is the quest to manage expenses. The most critical and manageable expense item on your P&L statement is labor. Managing labor efficiently will generate immediate results in your quest to manage expenses. This begins with capturing daily man-hours used by department or activity in categories such as receiving, put-away, replenishment, pick/pack/ship, inventory management, supervision, etc. Capturing the man-hours used can be done with sophisticated warehouse-management system software or a more manual approach. But no matter the method used, you must know how many man-hours are used each day, in each activity. Once you’ve successfully determined

The 50 Best Tips of 2006
November 1, 2006

What better way for a tips-oriented business magazine to wind down 2006 than with the top 50 tips of the year? My staff and I spent the past several weeks going through every article that’s run so far in Catalog Success and the Catalog Success Idea Factory e-newsletter this year to bring you the ultimate how-to “cheat sheet.” Throughout these pages, we’ve synthesized the year’s best tips, summarizing, and in some cases quoting directly, from stories and/or the sources themselves, where noted. Below each, you’ll see the industry expert who offered the tip. We reference the issue from which the tips originate so